June 22nd – Hondo Canyon to Topanga Lookout
Nine hikers arrived on a cool overcast morning at the trailhead located 0.4 mile northwest of “downtown” Topanga along Old Topanga Canyon Road where the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s “Backbone Trail” crosses the road. As we began our hike up the steep north-facing mountain slope we traversed our only wet stream crossing and soon passed through meadows filled with dry yellow grasses and dotted with oak trees and interesting rock formations.
After negotiating a long series of heavily shaded switchbacks through the forest we neared Saddle Peak Road. However, we headed west on the Fossil Ridge Trail that paralleled/overlooked the road; it was also adorned with a variety of blooming plants, particularly phacelia. Upon reaching the old Topanga Tower Motorway, we left the Backbone Trail and headed north to the end of the road where there was once a fire lookout tower. After a lunch/rest break we retraced our steps and returned home having completed a 10.7-mile hike with 2,350’ of elevation gain/loss on a very pleasant day for hiking.
June 15th – Switzer Falls and Bear Canyon
Seven hikers carpooled to the trailhead at the Switzer Picnic Area, about 10 miles up Highway 2 from its intersection with the 210 Freeway. Switzer Camp was founded in 1884 by a Pasadena carpinter named Perry Switzer. The camp was an arroyo rock village, and one of many privately owned attractions that dotted the front range of the San Gabriel mountains, hosted outdoor enthusiasts who hiked from one lodge to the next. All that remains of Switzer Camp today, are the chapel arches and the overgrown foundation of the lodge.
June 8th – Matilija Falls
Eight hikers met at the trailhead at the west end of Matilija Road a few miles northwest of Ojai on a pleasant late-spring morning. The hike began along a road that headed west through the private Matilija Canyon Ranch Wildlife Refuge where we were greeted by a dazzling display of large Matilija poppies as we passed by a cage housing sheep and goats.
After a while the trail began to descend to the creek (the last part of the trail down required special attention as it was very narrow and partially eroded in places). Upon reaching the wide boulder-strewn canyon bottom and agreeing that our hike now bore no resemblance (other than exhibiting mountains, a canyon, and a stream) to our prior visits. The canyon bottom was devoid of foliage and as we looked upstream we saw a series of small cascades in the stream and lots of rocks all around. After inspecting the area we spotted a pink ribbon (one of a series of such markers) across the stream, so we carefully crossed to the other side where there was an obvious trail heading upstream. After taking a rest/snack break we headed upstream along the trail. However, the trail soon began to deteriorate and eventually disappeared entirely, leaving us on a shelf above the stream. Spotting a solitary hiker heading downstream in the canyon bottom, we asked her if she had reached the waterfall. She said that she had but she was equipped with water shoes. Although we were happy to learn that we were headed in the right direction (despite its foreign-to-us look), we decided to turn around at this point since we were not equipped to hike in the water. We returned the way we came, all agreeing that although we didn’t make it to the waterfall it was still a beautiful outing. We returned home having completed an 8.5-mile hike with about 1,250’ of elevation gain/loss.
THE JUNE, 2016 VERSION OF THE TRIP REPORT – – –
“At about the 2-mile mark the dirt road became a narrow trail as it wound through a shady poison-oak-paradise stretch. In fact, since the route closely followed Matilija Creek the rest of the way, poison oak was frequently present [long pants and a long-sleeved shirt are recommended]. After a while we stopped by the flowing stream at a particularly lovely spot and took a short break (and some photos). Continuing upstream the maintained trail ended and we began to scramble and boulder hop, frequently finding short open stretches of trail. Occasionally we were required to cross the stream in order to continue. We were rewarded for our effort by beautiful scenery including the flowing creek, several large pools of water, vast expanses of sedimentary rock layers, an extensive riparian oak woodland, towering canyon walls, and many wildflowers including Matilija poppies.”
OUR CONCLUSION AS TO THE VAST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE 2016 AND THE 2019 HIKES: Wildfire and subsequent flooding in the Matilija Creek Canyon since 2016 sculpted a barren rock environment in the canyon bottom and also led to a change in trail direction as a result, i.e., the steep climb up the mountain on the west side of the canyon, followed by the steep descent back into the canyon.
June 1st – Mt. Lukens
Ten hikers carpooled to the Haines Canyon Trail trailhead at the upper (east) end of Haines Canyon Avenue in Tujunga on a slightly chilly, cloudy/foggy late spring morning to tackle hiking steadily uphill to the summit of Mt. Lukens, the highest peak (5,078’) in the city of Los Angeles.